US President Barack Obama defended his decision to exchange five imprisoned Taliban fighters for the sole American prisoner of war held in Afghanistan, saying he had consulted with Congress “for some time” on the issue.
Obama also dismissed concerns over the circumstances surrounding Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban in 2009, saying the US had a “sacred” obligation not to leave behind any of its military personnel.
Concerns over Bergdahl’s capture come amidst accusations that he deserted his post during wartime in Afghanistan.
“Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity,” Obama said during a news conference in Poland. “We don’t condition that.”
The Pentagon had concluded in 2010 that Bergdahl had walked away from the camp where he was stationed without authorisation.
Nathan Bradley Bethea, who claimed to have served in Bergdahl’s unit, wrote in the Daily Beast, “Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.”
Released American prisoner of war Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl
Despite these accusations and the Pentagon’s conclusions, Obama has said that there were no current plans to put Bergdahl on trial for desertion.
“Our main priority is making sure the transition that he’s undergoing after five years in captivity is successful,” he said.
However, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said that desertion charges could still be pursued by the US Army. Dempsey said that US military leaders have been accused of “looking away from misconduct”, and said that “it’s premature” to assume that they would look away in this case.